Monday, April 30, 2007

For those keeping score at home...

Everywhere I go people are saying "Steve...what have you been doing with yourself?" I'm not posting blog entries, I'm not publishing stories every fourth day, in short, production is down. Or so they think. Nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, while short story acceptances are, in fact, at a three year low, rejections are running at near peak performance. Who has rejected my stories? Who hasn't? EQMM, AHMM, Asimov's, Analog, The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy to name a few. Rejected by form letter and by email. Rejected in science fiction, mystery, adventure, and a combo of genres I like to call the science fiction-mystery.

Oh, and I even forgot to submit an article about myself to the people at Mystery Reader's Journal for their Ethnic Detective issues.

And I was asked recently if I could write a happy ending to a current novel length project. Nothing at all against happy endings. I like them as much as the next man. But then this particular story has a string of murders and a main character suicide. Tough going turning frown upside down.

On the plus side, however, my bible blog has started up again and I've published three interviews - two for Crimespree: the overly talented Megan Abbott and the clearly genetically enhanced Jonathan Santlofer. Santlofer is also the subject of an interview for Mystery Scene Magazine. In the future, all humans will be like these two and no one will ever be bored again.

I'm also preparing to interview Allan Guthrie. This, for Crimespree. Reading his wonderful (so far) Hard Man, has been a treat. On the other hand, Jon Jordan has warned me that I'm supposed to elict at least one funny response, and I fear that Mr. Guthrie will run dry before I get to ask him questions.

Another interview with a writer to be named later is also forthcoming.

There are four short stories out in the mail, and two stories are in the hands of contest judges. Two other stories are in the running for awards (very nice that). And I have a novel coming out as well as a short story in Bronx Noir and another in Demolition. This will make for a busy July. You'll be sick of me by then...If not already.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Finished Ken Bruen's The Dramatist. The book was, of course, wonderful. Hard to pin down, but that's not a knock. I might want to explain myself, however. If taken as a mystery - straight up give me a puzzle with some clues - well, the book doesn't really operate that way and you might be disappointed. Jack Taylor, the detective, doesn't detect so much as dodge in this book. Several crimes are committed in the book and Jack doesn't really solve any of them, not by himself at least. One crime is against himself, and the perpetrator doesn't hide himself. One crime is solved by a waitress. Another is solved by a barman. Then how is this a Jack Taylor novel?

Taylor is at the center of the maelstorm and trying to survive. In fact, he tries furiously to thrive. To make the world a better place for himself and the many around him - the souls clinging to the life raft he's paddling with, admittedly, a broken oar. The raft has sprung some leaks and it's headed straight into a murderous wave, so the question for the reader is "Can Jack and friends come through the ordeal without harm?" Well, it's a Ken Bruen novel so what do you think, ya pup?

As I said, a wonderful book. The ending will leave you thinking.

For lighter fare, I've started reading Al Guthrie's Hard Man. Just started this morning, so the report will need to wait, but the first twenty pages or so drag you into the story so that you don't really want to put it down. Good stuff.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Short Story

Guess which online magazine called Demolition Magazine just accepted another of my short stories. Wait. I let it slip, didn't I? Well, Mr. Quertermous took another of my Viktor Petrenko stories. In this story, Viktor both hurts people and is hurt by them in turn. Can't say much more than that except that I'm told the story will debut in July. Fine by me since I have a novel coming out that month and a short story coming out in early August in Bronx Noir.

Speaking of Bronx Noir, I just today got the page proofs for my story. It'll start on page 151 which is a good position because it comes right before SJ Rozan's story. The way I figure it, anyone flipping through the book looking for her story will have to get past my title first...They'll be suckered with the first few lines of my story, be unable to stop reading, and...Well, really, I have nothing else to add to the fantasy.

Last week I was dealing with the page proofs for The Concrete Maze. Not so big a chore. The copy was pretty clean. For feeling like a writer, the last week or two have been pretty good.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Great Googally-Moogally!

The Short Mystery Fiction Society presents the Derringer Award for several categories of short fiction - including Flash fiction of 500 words or less and Longer Short Stories of over 6,000 words. To indulge in a bit of horn tooting and back patting, I have been nominated. Quite exciting. Never been nominated for anything other than committee work at the different colleges I've worked at and the churches I've attended. It makes me feel like I've finally done something well enough to justify the actions of those editors who have selected my work over the past few years. No way to say how badly I felt last year when "Stoop the Thief" wasn't nominated.

Anyway, what chance do I have bringing home the gold? I'll do some handicapping later. For now I'll let you be the judge. Frankly, the Mid-Length Category reads like an ALL-STAR team. Here is the list of nominees:

Flash Fiction

Jan Christensen, “Matched Set“ (Long Story Short, Winter, 2006)
Barry Ergang, “Vigilante” (Mysterical-E, Summer 2006)
Michelle Mach, “Snowflake Therapy” (Thereby Hangs a Tale, June 2006)
Jill Maser, “Flight School” (Flashshots. August 28, 2006)
Sandra Seamans, “Home Entertainment” (A Cruel World, July/August 2006)

Short-Short Stories

Gail Farrelly, “Even Steven” (Mouth Full of Bullets, Winter 2006)
John M. Floyd, “Four For Dinner” (Seven by Seven)
Justin Gustainis, “Interview” (Cape Fear Crime Festival, October, 2006)
Steven Torres, “Elena Speaks of the City, Under Siege” (Crimespree Magazine September/October 2006)
Frank Zafiro, “The Worst Door” (Dispatch, January 2006)

Mid-length Short Stories

David Bareford, “Eden’s Bodyguard” (Thuglit, September 2006)
Rex Burns, “Shadow People” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, June 2006)
Bill Crider, “Cranked” (Damn Near Dead: An Anthology of Geezer Noir)
Robert S. Levinson, “Uncle Blinky’s Corner of the World” (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2006)
Robert Lopresti, “Shanks on the Prowl” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2006)

Longer Short Stories

Annette Dashofy, “Signature in Blood” (Mysterical-E, Winter 2006)
Julie Hyzy, “Strictly Business” (These Guns for Hire)
Stuart MacBride, “Daphne MacAndrews and the Smack-Head Junkies” (Damn
Near Dead: An Anthology of Geezer Noir)
Larry Sweazy, “See Also Murder” (Amazon Shorts, December 11, 2006)
Steven Torres, “The Valley of Angustias” (Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, October 2006)

Congratulations to all nominees!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ordering books...

If I wanted a copy of HARD MAN by Al Guthrie, could I order it through Amazon's UK outlet and get it imported to me without much trouble? Do people do that? Would US Customs knock on my door to confiscate the copy?

I once bought a VHS tape from the UK and had to send it back since British VHS consists entirely of snow and static.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Is Noir Depresing?

This year, I'll have two major publications to add to my credit (Yes. I am keeping score.) and they're both noir. For the novel, The Concrete Maze, I think I may have hedged my bets. It's not quite as bleak as it could have been though it is plenty bleak I think.

With the short story, "Early Fall" coming out in late summer in the antho Bronx Noir, I've written a truly noir story. There's no light at the end of the tunnel. There's not even a tunnel (which might suggest a way out).

Some of my favorite novels of the past few years, certainly some of my favorite mysteries, have been noir in nature. I think of Moony's Road to Hell by Manuel Ramos and Dope by Sara Gran and Megan Abbott's books. There are others. In any event, one has to wonder what could possibly draw anyone to such a book. After all, if it is mere verisimilitude (the world is such, let us read books that show that) we could get the same effects from simply living, no?

And in fact, the world is not such. After all, there may be noir parts of the world, there are child soldiers, child prostitutes and evil people to exploit them, for instance. But there are also good people. Overall, there is more good than bad. Evidence, you say? We're still here. We've had the power to destroy ourselves for a long time now. There is a noir side to the world to be sure, but it's not everything.

Then is it for the thrill of violence and the vicarious pleasure of inhabiting a world filled with bad people? Or is it to watch a hero struggle against odds we know are impossible (it says so on the back of the book) and which even the hero realizes are impossible. To watch someone fight the good fight we don't have the courage to fight ourselves? As Jimmy Stewart said in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: "You fight hardest for the lost causes. Those are the only ones worth fighting for." (Okay, that was a paraphrase.)

Or what? What could draw a reader to a story that is so dark?

Raines vs. Monk

I've been watching Jeff Goldblum in his new series Raines. I'm old enough to remember his old series Tenspeed and Brownshoes. Loved him then (and Ben Vereen of course) and I love him now.

The show is not the best, but it has strong points. First the strong points - Raines, a detective who sees (and talks to) the dead people (figments of his imagination that push him to solve the case)is an endearing character. Haunted by the death, in the line of duty, of his partner, more intelligent than those around him, caring. Great character, well played by Goldblum. He's a troubled man and we want to see him work his way out of trouble even if it's only for long enough to solve the case. The nearness of death is like opening the closet door when the closet is overstuffed and all the garbage wants to flow out. Solving the case gets the closet door closed. This, of course, is quite a predicament for a homicide detective to be in.

Now for the bad side - to my mind, this show is similar to Monk which is a great show. Greater in some basic ways than Raines. For one thing, Monk's haunting is greater than that of Detective Raines. For Raines, it was his partner that died in a shootout. For Monk, it was his wife, Trudy. Score one for Monk on the sympathy scale. Next, Monk has strongly antagonistic characters surrounding him. Even his friend the captain barks at him. Everyone else thinks he's strange. On RAINES, everyone around him is low key so there is a lack of tension. Even though he's required to go to counseling, his therapist is less antagonistic than Monk's.

Of course, Raines could solve this last problem if he simply pursued a love interest. Plenty of opportunity for antagonism there, and keeping her safe would give him something to worry him as Monk has in Trudy.

Just my opinion.